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Sieve Analysis 35-325 Wet - SIEV

This test procedure was employed in the Foresight Ceramic Database and now is available for those having an account at Insight-Live.com. Accumulating test data using the variables defined in these procedures enables us to create tools that enable you to compare the physical properties of materials and recipes.


See ASTM E-11
This is a very good standard test for +325 mesh PSD in clay bodies and materials. It is much more reliable than a dry sieve analysis since particle agglomeration with the former causes alot of problems.


1. Purpose
This test is best done using a Data Collection Fill-In form. Collect data on a number tests, then enter this into the computer in a batch.

Related information on the theory, purpose, procedure and interpretation for this test is available in the Magic of Fire II book.

2. Scope
2.1 This test is done to assess particle size of incoming material.

3. Definitions
A standard sieve numbering system using the W.S. Tyler Sieve Company.
3.2 MESH
The number of wires per inch on a testing sieve.

4. Responsibilities
4.1 This procedure is carried out by the quality control technician on powder or dry samples provided by the receiver or collected in production.

5. Procedure
5.1 If the material is supplied as a chunk of dry clay:

5.1.1 Break the chunk into small pellet no bigger than 3-4 mm and weigh out 100 grams.

5.1.2 Continue as for powder sample.

5.2 If the material is provided as a pugged wet sample:

5.2.1 Roll the pugged clay into a thin slab (about 5 mm) and dry it.

5.2.2 Continue as above for dried chunk.

5.3 Wash powder through sieves

5.3.1 Weigh 100 grams of powder or broken chunks and pour it into about a litre of water. Let stand for a few minutes for powder, for an hour for pellets.

5.3.2 Wash the water/powder mix through the 325# screen until all minus 325 material is gone. If some pellets do not break down well, wash with hot water, or dry the sieve as is and wash a second time.

5.3.3 Reverse wash the oversize material back into the water container.

5.3.4 Stack the sieves from finest to coarsest, with finest at the bottom, and wash the plus 325 material through the stack. Thoroughly spray the material on each sieve to encourage all finer material to fall through each.

5.3.5 Dissassemble the stack of sieves and set in warm area to dry.

5.3.6 Write the material iddentification on a new line on the SIEV logsheet.

5.3.7 Use a brush to remove the oversize material from each screen and weigh it. Write the weight on the logsheet.

5.3.8 Enter the data into the computer using the correct ID# for the body or material. If an ID# does not already exist, assign one.

5.4 Equipment

5.4.1 Tyler root of two series of interlocking testing sieves with soft seive brush.

5.4.2 .01 gram balance

5.4.3 Drying area

5.4.4 Spraying hose and sink
5.5. Safety

5.5.1 Brass sieves can get very hot if dried near a heat source; be careful not to get burned.

5.5.2 Mixing clay/water slurries can generate a lot of dust. Take measures to reduce it and not breathe it.

5.6. Workmanship

5.6.1 Carefully wash all material through each sieve with a repeated back and forth motion.

5.6.2 Do not use too high pressure as this could splatter some of the material out of the sieve.

5.6.3 Wash all material through the finest sieve first, then stack them all up and wash the remainder through. This is a necessity to prevent blinding that causes water overflows and material loss on the finer meshes.

5.6.4 Wash the oversize to the centre of each sieve so it can more easily be brushed out when dry.

5.6.5 If drying is done near a hot kiln, be careful that the temperature will not be high enough to melt the solder on the sieves.

5.6.6 Use the brush carefully on the finer sieves to avoid damaging them.

5.6.7 Watch carefully for rips in the sieves, especially around the edges. Repair with hot glue if necessary.

5.6.8 Watch the stacking order carefully to be sure the sieves are in order during washing.

6. Reference Documents
Test Definition Report,
Test Procedure Report,
Data Collection Fill-In Form Report.

7. Reason for Re-issue
Temp 1 Initial Draft
Temp 2 Spelling and Grammer check and minor revisions.
Temp 3 Adjustment in data collection process due to better data entry facilities in the software.


TOT - Total Weight (V)

The total weight of powder washed through the screens. When weighing, add the water content to the total weight. For example, if the water content is 2.5%, then weight out 102.5 grams.

35M - 35 mesh (V)

The residue left on the 35 mesh screen after drying.

48M - 48 mesh (V)

65M - 65 mesh (V)

100M - 100 mesh (V)

150M - 150 mesh (V)

200M - 200 mesh (V)

325M - 325 mesh (V)

NOTE - Note (V)

Use this to iddentify each specimen if more than one was done.

Could these bentonite particles cause specking in a porcelain?

Could these bentonite particles cause specking in a porcelain?

The stated particle size of a material and fired appearance can both be misleading. For example, these are Volclay 325 bentonite particles fired to cone 8 oxidation. They are from a water washed sieve analysis test, the oversize particles from a 325 mesh screen (left) make up 2% of the total and 1% are from the 200 mesh screen (right). Although the 325 particles appear ominously dark, individually they are likely to small to produce apparent fired specks in a porcelain. However 200 mesh sizes can produce visible fired specks, but that fraction of oversize does not have nearly as high iron or flux content. Still, the finer darker particles could agglomerate, it might be better to use a cleaner bentonite to plasticize a porcelain.

Particle size distribution and root-of-two stack of sieves from 48-325 mesh

Particle size distribution and root-of-two stack of sieves from 48-325 mesh

These are logged within Insight-live using the SIEV test.

Particle size distribution and root-of-two stack of sieves from 48-325 mesh

Preparing a representative powder sample for sieve analysis

Skagit Fireclay PSD test

Skagit Fireclay PSD test

Particles from each category in a particle size distribution test of Skagit Fireclay

Ball clay powders were minus 200 mesh. Right? Wrong!

Ball clay powders were minus 200 mesh. Right? Wrong!

These are the oversize particles (from the 79, 100, 140 and 200 mesh sieves) from 100 grams of a commercial Gleason ball clay. They have been fired to cone 8 oxidation. There is 1.5 grams total, this is within the limits stated on their data sheet even though the material is sold as 200 mesh grade. Firing the samples shows whether the particles contain iron that will produce specking in porcelains and whiteware. In this case there are a few. We do this test on many materials and this is typical of what we see.

Watch out for iron particles in ball clays

Watch out for iron particles in ball clays

These are the oversize particles (from the 70, 100, 140 and 200 mesh sieves) from 100 grams of a commercial ball clay. They have been fired to cone 10 reduction. As you can see, this material is a potential cause of specking, especially in porcelain bodies. It is not only wise to check for oversize particles in clays, but firing these particles will tell you if they contain iron. A 200 mesh screen would be a good start for this test, it would catch all of these.

Large particle grogs are difficult to produce

Large particle grogs are difficult to produce

These particles are from a grog that has been milled and separated into its constituent sizes in the lab. As you can see it has a wide range of particle sizes, from 48 to finer than 200 mesh. When fired ceramic (like bricks) is ground the finer sizes often predominate. Because the coarser grades have a lower yield they can be much more expensive and harder to get. But they are the most effective in reducing the drying shrinkage and fired stability of structural and sculptural bodies.

Oversize particles in a typical manufactured porcelain body

Oversize particles in a typical manufactured porcelain body

Example of the oversize particles from a 100 gram wet sieve analysis test of a powdered sample of a porcelain body made from North American refined materials. Although these materials are sold as 200 mesh, that designation does not mean that there are no particles coarser than 200 mesh. Here there are significant numbers of particles on the 100 and even 70 mesh screens. These contain some darker particles that could produce fired specks (if they are iron and not lignite); that goodness in this case they do not. Oversize particle is a fact of life in bodies made from refined materials and used by potters and hobbyists. Industrial manufacturers (e.g. tile, tableware, sanitaryware) commonly process the materials further, slurrying them and screening or ball milling; this is done to guarantee defect-free glazed surfaces.

This is what labs use to measure particle size

This is what labs use to measure particle size

To measure particle size in a slurry or powder you need sieves. This is the most popular type used in labs. They are made from brass by a company named Tyler. The range screen sizes for testing particle size is very wide. The top screen has an opening of 56 mm (that size and smaller pieces can fall through). The bottom sieve has an opening of 0.1 mm, the wires are almost too small to see. Coarser and finer sieves are available. You can buy these on ebay for a lot less than new ones, just search for tyler sieves. Keep in mind that the finer sieves (especially 325) are fragile and easily ripped. We use a series that bottoms out at 200.

A root-of-two series of test sieves

A root-of-two series of test sieves

The coarsest screen is at the top, the finest on the bottom. The opening for each is shown on the label. They are chosen such that each successive screen going down has an opening that is about half the area of the one above it. Using this series you can produce a practical measurement of the distribution of particle sizes in ceramic materials and bodies used in traditional ceramics (structural products industries, like brick, measure coarser particles than this, starting at perhaps 10 mesh and ending at 70). The 325 screen on the bottom is only used sometimes, it is difficult to finer-that-325 particles to pass through it because it blinds. It is not possible to shake powder through sieves that are this fine, samples must be washed through. We use the SIEV test to log results.

Testing your own native clays is easier that you might think

Testing your own native clays is easier that you might think

Some simple equipment is all you need. It is amazing how much you can learn from characterizing a body or clay material. You need a gram scale accurate to 0.01 grams (very inexpensive at your ceramic supplier). A set of callipers (again, not expensive these days). Some metal sieves (expensive, so search "Tyler Sieves" on Ebay.com). A stamp to identify samples. A plaster table or slab. A propeller mixer. And, of course, a test kiln. And you need a place to put, and learn from, all the measurement data you will be collecting. An account at insight-live.com is perfect.

Out Bound Links

In Bound Links

  • (Articles) Simple Physical Testing to Compare Clay Materials

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By Tony Hansen

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